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Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Author interview no.574 with non-fiction writer Liz Thompson (revisited)
Back in November 2012, I interviewed author Liz Thompson for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the five hundred and seventy-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author Liz Thompson. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Liz. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Liz: I live in Ohio, USA. I’m married and have a grown daughter and three grandchildren. Since I was a girl, I loved words and wrote poetry. I didn’t save any of my girlhood work but started saving it in my early adult years. Eventually the poetry turned into music lyrics for songs I wrote for about 6 years. Since I was losing my hearing gradually since my young years, singing and song writing went by the wayside in my early 40s.
In 1998, I sent my first column to Suburban News Publications (SNP), the local newspaper and am still writing a column for that newspaper (although they recently have been bought out by a larger paper, I’m hoping they still print my column) In 2000, I became a reporter for SNP. While living in Arizona from 2003-2005, I wrote a column for The Arizona Republic newspaper. In 2002, I got my first cochlear implant taking me from zero hearing to 95 percent in one ear. Seven years later, I got another implant in my other ear.
My first book published in 2008 by Gallaudet University Press Day by Day, the Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter started as a compilation of my columns in one place (for my grandchildren). And then I decided to write why I wrote the column and then the responses I got… and it became a book.
Morgen: Wow. I love technology when it can be put to such a good use. It’s just a shame that it took so many years for you to have it, and it’s so great that you’re writing about. You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Liz: My column writing began with writing about hearing loss and advocating for people with hearing loss. It’s invisible and misunderstood. I also have multiple sclerosis so I wrote about that experience and to raise awareness. Then I started writing more about other people and their stories. While I was a reporter, I wrote about the fascinating people I met – I love to tell other people’s stories. I’ve been told my columns are “slice of life” writing. I’m inspired by the people I meet and issues of the day – school and library levies, advocating for people who have no voice, so to speak, memories, writing – It’s amazing how many people ask me how to write! Usually the ideas are many and I time them with holidays. If I’m inspired to write about what I’m thankful for, I wait for Thanksgiving time to submit that writing. My non-fiction books have a theme so I follow that and just write on.
Morgen: That’s what makes writing great; if a reader can relate to it or imagine it, then we’ve done our job. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Liz: I have two books published (my second is God Whispers: Nudges, Fudges and Butterfly Moments) and have been published in one anthology so far. Orange is the New Pink and experiences living the multiple sclerosis. I’ve lived with that since 1973. I use my full name – Elizabeth Thompson – but for my columns I use Liz Thompson.
Morgen: Are your books available as an eBook? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Liz: My first book is, yes. Right now I’m paper all the way. I love holding a book, newspaper, magazine or article in my hands. I’m not opposed to eBooks but I want “real” books to stay available.
Morgen: I think they still will, we’ll just buy them in a different way. I’ve known of people who loved an eBook to buy the paperback so they have it on their shelves. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Liz: I did have a say in the title of both books. I really wanted my first book to say: …the Chronicles of a Deaf Reporter but I was not born Deaf, I became deaf. In the Deaf Culture, that is very big and I respect that. Since Gallaudet University Press is at the only University for the Deaf in the U.S., I allowed the …Hard of Hearing. I think the title can really be a draw for someone to open a book. The cover design was my idea but they finalized it. My next book is: God Whispers: Nudges, Fudges and Butterfly Moments. God Whispers was added by the publisher and I was asked if I liked it. I submitted about 10 photos of varying styles for suggestions for the cover.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Liz: I’m working on a book I’m calling 10 Years Later that I’m trying to find a publisher for. I am going back to people I interviewed as a reporter and seeing where they are now. I’m also working on a book I’m calling God Knows ASL that would be a compilation of stories about how people with any degree of hearing loss worships. It’s mostly in the idea stage.
Morgen: I think the key with non-fiction (I may well be wrong because the only non-fiction I write is about the craft of writing) is to find a new angle because I’m sure every topic has been written about, but then there are apparently only seven basic plots in fiction yet we all seem to find new ones. :) Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Liz: I write most days but my writing is more a thought process long before I write a word. I think things through, determine what the writing will be about and decide if I want to actually do it or is it a whim. Writer’s block to me tells me that I need to rethink or step back for a while. I don’t really mind when it happens.
Morgen: I’m the same. It just means I’ve lost focus on one piece so I go on to another or something completely different. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Liz: I edit all the time. First I write full out. Then I read it and edit. Then I read it out loud and edit some more. Then I read it to someone else (if it’s a book, I do it in pieces) and edit again. I like to write in conversational tone and if it can’t be read easily out loud, I start over and smooth it out.
Morgen: :) Do you have to do much research?
Liz: I do research, yes. At times quite a lot but usually it’s just to confirm facts. I get on the phone, the Internet and email people to make sure I have it right. Especially when I’m writing a column about someone else!
Morgen: The internet’s made life so much easier. I love it. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Liz: Sure. I think all writers have that. I have started several books that never went anywhere. It doesn’t bother me because just the thinking and initial writing process is fun for me. I like to write. I’m driven to write.
Morgen: Me too. :) It’s all practice, isn’t it. I have 100+ stories from the last few years that sit in files and I’m sure I’ll go back to them and do something, now I kind of know what I’m doing. Do you pitch for submissions and / or are you commissioned to write?
Liz: I pitch for submissions. For 6 years I wrote for Hearing Health Magazine and they came to me with assignments.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Liz: I have had 2 rejections for the book I’m writing. The first rejection was so kind and honest. The second one was 2 lines handwritten. Very unprofessional. A rejection bums me out for a short time and then I get back to work. Yes, I like being published but it’s not the only reason I write.
Morgen: Me too. I just love something coming out of nothing. Do you enter any non-fiction competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Liz: Yes I have entered a few. I just sent a submission to a local Bicentennial book being published by a local writing cooperative. I don’t really have any to recommend just maybe look for contests in a genre you love to write about.
Morgen: Good luck with your submission. Do let me know how you get on. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Liz: I don’t have an agent but it would be fun to have someone else set up book events. I had no idea how to do that with my first book and I floundered a bit. I think they are vital if you end up writing best sellers otherwise you wouldn’t have time to keep writing!
Morgen: Marketing is a bug bear for most of the authors I’ve spoken too because it’s so time-consuming. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Liz: With my first book, I knew so little about marketing that I didn’t do too well. Now my book is 5 years since publishing and I’m a lot savvier. I hope to use what I learned with my next books. I did develop a logo for branding but I actually haven’t used it too much. I don’t think it was widely accepted or understood. I’ve learned a lot about networking and with the Internet that has improved. Although I’m careful how I do it. With the next book I’m planning my book signings better and more in advance and getting involved in local events as a local author. I also got a vendor’s license so I can sell easily from anywhere.
Morgen: It’s certainly about getting your name out there, which is part of the reason I’m so prolific with this blog (and because I enjoy it). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Liz: Sometimes I’m surprised what comes out of my mouth on paper. Writing seems to be cathartic for me and a way to voice my thoughts. When I was a reporter, I learned how much I love writing other people’s stories. To this day, that gathering of facts for those stories has led me to be a better conversationalist and keeping the focus off me when I talk – I don’t like to appear egotistical – and the focus more on others and what we may have in common. Or what we can learn from one another. My least favourite aspect of writing might be when I’m not inspired and not working on anything. I know it will come but the not knowing is disheartening.
Morgen: The blank page scares a lot of people but what comes out as a first draft doesn’t often finish up as a final draft, or go anyway. The thing is that we can’t edit a blank page and sometimes just freewriting produces the best results. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Liz: Write. Get pad of paper and pen or pencil and start writing. Anything – observations, poetry, opinion or whatever is on your mind. Don’t worry if you’ll ever be published and write for the pure joy. When you’re ready, share it with someone you trust and take their comments – good and bad – and learn from them. If they say it seems trite, ask them to explain. Learn and grow. Read everything, not just the genre you love. See what draws you in and why and emulate that. Don’t copy it but take the reason you like it and write something. Or copy a style you like to expand the way you write.
Morgen: Absolutely. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Liz: Erma Bombeck, my maternal grandmother and Jesus. I’d serve lots of homemade bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade applesauce and barbecued chicken.
Morgen: I love barbecue chicken – can I be your third? :) Erma Bombeck, what a wonderful name. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Liz: When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'. Erma Bombeck
Morgen: I love that. I have so many ideas that I wonder if I’ll use them all. I’d love to think I would. Do you write fiction? If so, do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Liz: Not yet! I have 2 short fiction stories in my next book. I hope to write a fiction novel someday.
Morgen: Do, it’s great. I’ve done NaNoWriMo five times and it’s only the thought of spending a month rather than a year (as I’d heard was the average to write a book) that got me started. It then takes longer to edit it but I usually love what comes out so I’m happy to do that. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Liz: First person is what I use most when writing columns or my books for sure. This is probably the easiest and most comfortable for me. Third person writing is what I used as a reporter. Since I love telling other people’s stories – and I’ve said that several times already! – this is my second favourite. As far as second person, I use that only when I’m giving specific directions within another story. Not my favourite way to write.
Morgen: It isn’t for many people. I love it but it only really works with short pieces, especially if they’re dark. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Liz: I belong to a growing writers’ group here in my little town of Grove City, Ohio. It began with 3 of us and now is close to 20 people. I love to encourage new writers and talk with students to encourage them to journal or write poetry or stories. My granddaughter has written her first book and I helped her edit. She is going to surpass me by leaps and bounds and I’ll right there cheering her on!
Morgen: Writing groups are great, aren’t they. I belong to four (I run one and am Chair of another) and would belong to more if there were more here. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Liz: I love to bake bread. Winter months I knit and do small needlework projects. Gardening is something I love, especially at harvest time. Spending time with my husband while we travel with our trailer is always fun. My grandchildren are very special to me and I spend time with them any way I can. But mostly I read novels, magazines, newspapers and my Bible.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Liz: I get daily emails from http://www.dailywritingtips.com.
Morgen: What a great idea… I’ve signed up. :) Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Liz: I’m on LinkedIn and like the small groups. It “links” me to other writers. That’s how I found you!
Morgen: Ah yes, the brilliant LinkedIn. It’s why I’m booked into next July because I put a shout-out for interviewees last February (I only had a week’s worth!) and was inundated. I’ve deleted the threads now because I have over 900 questionnaires still to come back (and am dropping down to five interviews a week from July) but should I run low again I know what to do. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Liz: It seems to be evolving as we write. I’ve gone from poet to columnist to reporter to author. I think we need to keep our options open if we love to write. eBooks are popular now but I hold to the hope that actual handheld books never disappear. The new is good but I think we need to retain the good from the past as well. Being a published writer is only going to become more difficult. The competition is stiff. So we need to maintain and realize some of our writing may never be published but it can be shared with people in our lives without being published and still hold true meaning. Some of the most famous authors and poets became famous after death. Not a great thought, I know, but what is fame anyway? You can’t take it with you. And it’s fleeting.
Morgen: I think both formats will run alongside quite happily (or maybe nudging each other every now and then) because most of us read paper books at home and digital when we’re away. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Liz: www.daybydayliz.com is my website. Here is an online interview: http://www.sellingbooks.com/elizabeth-thompson-author-interview. Here is the Gallaudet University Press book page: http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/bookpage/DBDbookpage.html
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Liz: Thanks for letting me be on your blog!
Morgen: You’re so welcome, Liz, thank you for joining me.
I then invited Liz to include a synopsis of one of her books and this is from God Whispers: Nudges, Fudges and Butterfly Moments…
Nudges—God nudges us when He lightly taps us on our shoulders to get our attention or gently pushes us in the right direction.
Fudges—Fudges are when we miss or ignore God’s nudges. (For fun, fudge recipes are included.)
Butterfly Moments—Just as the butterfly sheds its chrysalis, or cocoon, butterfly moments refer to that crucial defining moment of our spiritual growth when we cast off worldly ideas and embrace God's forgiveness and restoration.
Author Elizabeth Thompson is well acquainted with the subtleties with which our Lord will sometimes speak. Completely deaf by age 50 and now hearing with cochlear implants, Thompson has learned the value of listening with her heart. Her new book is an eye-opening journey into the silent corridors of a world void of sound, yet reverberating with the unmistakable voice of God, who loves each of us deeply. Along the way, she shares the beautiful stories of contributors ages 7 to 95 who have deepened their relationship with Jesus Christ by learning to listen for His gentle urgings.
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